The Effects of Wage Information on Support for Redistributive Spending

Emily Thorson, Kris Stella Trump

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Public support for redistributive policies (e.g., Medicaid) depends in part on the perceived need and deservingness of beneficiaries. However, the average citizen is not well informed about the economic conditions of their fellow citizens. In this article, we explore how information about average earnings of the working poor (a group generally seen as deserving) influences support for redistributive spending. Two survey experiments test whether support for such spending is affected by information about the average incomes of low-wage occupations (e.g., home health aides and retail sales workers). We additionally explore potential mechanisms for this effect, including empathy. An exploratory study finds an effect, but a pre-registered confirmatory study yields substantively small findings with inconsistent significance. Even when participants both receive detailed information about low-wage occupations’ salaries and are encouraged to recall people who they know in those jobs, the treatment has no substantial effect. Given the strength of this treatment and the lack of consistent effects, we conclude that interventions providing information about low-income salaries (e.g., in news coverage or interpersonal conversation) are unlikely to have a substantive effect on support for redistribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Politics Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • information effects
  • public opinion
  • support for redistribution
  • survey experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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